Media Literacy vs Digital Literacy

Context And Need: Media Literacy vs Digital Literacy

Concept Map (Ryan, et al):
7 Elements of Digital Literacies

In Massachusetts and many other states, a new teaching endorsement, "Digital Literacy and Computer Science", is building a cadre of educators who might have been "Library/Media Specialists" or "Technology Integrationists".

The "Computer Science" part focusses on how computers work and how to make things with hardware and software. "Digital Literacy" is where Fake News Fitness is situated.

Digital Literacy covers computer-related knowledge and skills that fall outside the Common Core standards. Different states address it differently, as do regional educational technology consortia and media projects. Many states have created consortia to define Digital Literacy, or to select from pre-existing standards developed by existing educational technology organizations like ISTE. Massachusetts’ Digital Literacy / Computer Science framework covers Safety and Security, Ethics and Laws, Interpersonal and Societal Impact, Digital Tools, Collaboration and Communication, and Research.

News Media Literacy and Information Literacy are part of Digital Literacy, though long before computers we read newspapers to inform citizenship and consulted print materials for research. Differentiating between a trustworthy newspaper of record and a tabloid, or tracking connections between claims, evidence and reasoning, should already be part of school. Discerning misinformation in a social media post or search result page is new, and something schools and teachers must decide to add, in alignment with state education department requirements and initiatives.

For Fake News Fitness, we combine information literacy, news media literacy, and web media literacy (which overlaps with Computer Science) in our use of the container term “media literacy”.

Components of Media Literacy Education

There are many media literacy education models gaining traction today, but those that have roots in academic scholarship draw from Potter (2004)'s Media Literacy model with its four components (additions in italic):

  1. Knowledge Structures (Cognitive Maps): media effects, media content, media industries, real world, self

  2. Personal Locus (Goals and Drives): uncritical consumer => critical consumer => producer => digital citizen.

  3. Information Processing (sense-making): filtering, meaning matching, meaning construction.

  4. Competencies and Skills (2004 model listed 7):

    1. Analysis—breaking down a message into meaningful elements

    2. Evaluation—judging the value of an element; the judgment is made by comparing the element to some criterion

    3. Grouping—determining which elements are alike in some way; determining which elements are different in some way

    4. Induction—inferring a pattern across a small set of elements, then generalizing the pattern to all elements in the set

    5. Deduction—using general principles to explain particulars

    6. Synthesis—assembling elements into a new structure

    7. Abstracting—creating a brief, clear, and accurate description capturing the essence of a message in a smaller number of words than the message itself.

Potter's Media Literacy Model: Figures

The Mission Defines the Model

In an update ten years after publishing his model (The State of Media Literacy, 2014), Potter reflected on how everyone seems to make up their own Media Literacy model: "each person writing about media literacy conceptualizes it with a different construction of definitional elements." Potter suggested a common mission or focus for media literacy education, including:

1. The mass media have the potential to exert a wide range of potentially negative effects on individuals.

2. The purpose of media literacy is to help people to protect themselves from the potentially negative effects.

3. Media literacy must be [continuously] developed.

For the purpose of Fake News Fitness's units and plugin, we position media literacy instruction this way: as a domain where students are taught to recognize and deal with online misinformation as negative effects on themselves and society.

For middle school students, we begin with a focus on the negative effects of mobile phones and social media, which are far more urgent and damaging at that age, and then work our way into misinformation, which has exploded because of the social media business model that profits from stories that surprise, shock, and get shared, regardless of social impact.